Persian Chicken, Made Easy

May 12 00:00 2009 Print This Article

Last year, a Persian restaurant opened in my neighborhood. Persian places are rare, even in New York City, so I eagerly checked it out. My first meal was so good that over the past year, I have been eating my way gradually through the menu.

This menu includes dishes you will recognize from Turkish and other eastern Mediterranean and Middle Eastern kitchens. There are lots of grilled kebabs, for example. Theres hummus and baba ghanoush, the smoky and creamy eggplant puree, plus a chilled yogurt soup that I might try making myself this summer.

Fine Persian cooks are also known for making cloud-light basmati rice, which they call pilaw. Copying the way this restaurant serves it, I sometimes mix a generous amount of dillweed (not the seed) or dried cherries into my cooked rice.

Some of the best Persian dishes combine meat or poultry cooked with fruit. Fesenjan, my favorite, is a stew that includes ground walnuts and pomegranate molasses. This tart-sweet ingredient, made by boiling down the juice until it is thick as molasses, is sold at Near Eastern and Greek food stores. Some supermarkets also have it in their ethnic or specialty food section. But you can easily boil the juice down yourself for a lighter version.

Using chicken breast with ribs in my deconstructed take of Fesenjan keeps the meat moist. In the roasting pan, juices combine with the glaze to make a generous amount of beautiful sauce.

Beneath the chicken, the bed of brown rice with dried cherries and walnuts that I make is more moist than a Persian pilaf. To be sure that the rice does not stick to the pot, check it after 30 minutes, adding a quarter-cup warm water if it seems needed.

Make just the chicken for a week-night dinner, if you like. Thinly sliced and served over the rice, it makes a dish pretty enough to share with company.

Pomegranate-Glazed Chicken Breast with Cherry Brown Rice Pilaf

Makes 4 servings.


  • 2 cups or 1 bottle (16-oz.) pomegranate juice
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • Cooking spray
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced shallots
  • 1 Tbsp. canola oil
  • 3/4 cup long-grain brown rice
  • 1 cup fat-free, reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1-1/4 cup cold water, divided
  • 1/4 cup chopped dried sweet cherries
  • 1/4 cup chopped scallion, green part only
  • 3 Tbsp. chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 skinless chicken breasts (12-oz. each) with ribs


    For glaze, boil pomegranate juice and garlic powder in medium saucepan over medium-high heat until reduced to 1/2 cup and slightly syrupy, about 30 to 40 minutes. Set aside to cool to lukewarm.

    Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Coat 8-inch square baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.

    For rice, in medium saucepan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Saut shallots until limp, 4 minutes. Stir in rice. Add chicken broth and 1 cup cold water. Cover, bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer until rice is tender, about 45 minutes. Let sit, covered, for 10 minutes. Mix in cherries, scallions, walnuts and cinnamon. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

    Meanwhile, place chicken breasts in baking dish, rib side down. Coat chicken with glaze, using 2 tablespoons, plus salt and pepper. Pour in 1/4 cup cold water. Bake chicken until an instant-read thermometer reads 165 degrees. or it no longer looks pink at the center of the thickest point, about 45 minutes, brushing it with additional glaze every 10 minutes and pouring on any remaining glaze after the last brushing. Set baked chicken aside for 10 minutes.

    To serve, remove chicken from bones and cut it diagonally into thin slices. Divide rice among four dinner plates and top each serving with one-fourth of chicken. Pour 2 or 3 tablespoons of the pan juices over the chicken and serve.

Per serving:
470 calories
15 g total fat
2 g saturated fat
54 g carbohydrate
33 g protein
2 g dietary fiber
230 mg sodium


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